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It is vital for tourism destinations [] to anticipate the

coming changes and to draw their consequences,
starting now. [Adaptation] is a long-term project that
must be anticipated and carefully prepared beforehand;
it is not easy to see this through successfully, because it
entails, all at the same time, modifying economic
circuits, introducing new technologies, carrying out
intensive training, investing in the creation of new
products, [] changing the minds of public authorities,
entrepreneurs, host communities and tourists.

Francesco Frangialli,
UNWTO Secretary-General, 2007

Climate Change A Priority Field for Policies and Actions for UNWTO
The World Tourism Organization1 (UNWTO) is the UN Specialised Agency on tourism and
plays a central and decisive role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable
and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the interests of developing
countries. With its headquarters in Madrid, UNWTO carries out extensive research, capacity
building and technical assistance activities, advocating for sustainable development of
tourism in international and national policy processes, with climate change dealt with as
priority issue.

Adaptation to Climate Change in the Tourism Sector

UNWTO has a specific focus on adaptation, considering that tourism is a highly climate-dependent
economic sector that is vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of climate variability and change.
The organization recognises that tourism contributes to global warming, and that at the same time the
tourism industry needs to develop its potential to adapt to global warming.
World Tourism Organization


Climate change

With its close connections to the environment and climate itself,

tourism is considered to be a highly climate-sensitive economic
sector similar to agriculture, insurance, energy, and transportation.

Climate change is not a remote future event for tourism, as the

varied impacts are becoming evident at destinations.

Changing climate patterns might alter major tourism flows where

climate is of paramount importance, such as the Mediterranean.

Least developed countries and small island developing states

might be particularly affected.

Impacts of climate change on the tourism sector are expected to

steadily intensify.

At the same time, the tourism sector is a non-negligible contributor

to climate change; GHG emissions from transport and


Partners for collaborative actions in adaptation: UNFCCC and its Nairobi Work Programme,

First International
Conference on
Climate Change
and Tourism in




2nd International

Seminar in Oxford
Ministerial Summit

World Climate

Conference in

Ministerial Summit
in London

UNWTO General
Assembly in
UN Climate
Change Summit

in London
Conference in
Workshop in
UN Climate
Conference in

in Geneva
UN Climate
Summit in


The Davos Process

Policy making and awareness raising: At the Davos Conference special sessions were dedicated to
climate change adaptation at different types of vulnerable destinations (coasts and islands, mountain
regions and nature-based destinations). The Davos Declaration acknowledges the need to adapt to
changing climate conditions and calls for specific actions by different tourism stakeholders. UNWTO
also made special contributions to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report through review of its Working
Group II regarding the interrelation between tourism and climate change adaptation.
Enhancing the technical knowledge base and building capacity: The Report on Climate Change
and Tourism - Responding to Global Challenges 2 , commissioned by UNWTO, UNEP and WMO,
provides a synthesis of the state of knowledge about current and likely future impacts of climate
change on tourism destinations around the world, and an overview of policy and management
responses of adaptation to climate change.

Through the Davos Process, UNWTO focuses on policy implementation and practical applications in
the tourism sector, as well as their dissemination through seminars, workshops, publications and
meetings with tourism stakeholders. The guidebook on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in
the Tourism Sector: Frameworks, Tools and Practices 3 , published in conjunction with an applied
training seminar, organized with UNEP and Oxford University, provides tools for increasing adaptive
capacity including tailoring adaptation processes to the tourism sector.
Implementing adaptation measures and disseminating good practices: UNWTO is assisting the
integration of tourism, also as a means of economic diversification, into national adaptation strategies
through pilot projects in Small Island Developing States. Currently, in preparation for the World
Climate Conference (WCC-3), UNWTO is the lead agency for the organization of a parallel session on
climate information for risk management and adaptation in the tourism sector. UNWTO set up a
special web-portal on climate change and tourism ( and established recently
a knowledge-exchange mechanism for applied climate solutions in the tourism sector

Key publications

Oxford Report (2008)

Davos Report (2008)

The Tourism Sector needs to adapt to a wide range of impacts related to

climate change
The tourism industry and destinations are clearly sensitive to climate variability and change. Climate
defines the length and quality of tourism seasons and plays a major role in destination choice and
tourist spending. In many destinations tourism is closely linked with the natural environment. Climate
affects a wide range of the environmental resources that are critical attractions for tourism, such as
snow conditions, wildlife productivity and biodiversity, water levels and quality. Climate also has an
important influence on environmental conditions that can deter tourists, including infectious disease,
wildfires, insect or water-borne pests (e.g., jellyfish, algae blooms), and extreme events such as
tropical cyclones.

There are four broad categories of climate change impacts that will affect tourism destinations, their
competitiveness and sustainability:

1. Direct climatic impacts

z Warmer Summer
z Warmer winters
z Precipitation change (water supply)
z Increased extreme events
2. Indirect environmental change impacts
z Biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine)
z Sea Level Rise
z Disease
3. Impact of mitigation policies on tourist
z Travel costs and destination choice
(less long haul?/less plane?)
4. Indirect societal change impacts
z Global/regional economic impacts
z Increase security risks
(social/governance disruption)


Changes in tourism demand

Water shortage and diminished
Damage to tourism infrastructure
and tourism use areas (e.g.
Loss of attractiveness of natural
areas and tourism sites
Health risks for tourists and
Secondary and knock-off effects
in tourism-related sectors

Geographic distribution of major climate change impacts affecting tourism destinations

Source: UNWTO/UNEP (2006): Climate Change and Tourism Responding to Global Challenges

Destination vulnerability hotspots: The integrated effects of climate change will have far-reaching
consequences for tourism businesses and destinations. Importantly, climate change will generate both
negative and positive impacts in the tourism sector and these impacts will vary substantially by market

segment and geographic region. The implications of climate change for any tourism business or
destination will also partially depend on the impacts on its competitors.
A negative impact in one part of the tourism system may constitute an opportunity elsewhere.
Consequently, there will be winners and losers at the business, destination and nation level. The
figure below provides a summary assessment of the most at-risk tourism destinations for the mid- to
late-21st century. Due to the very limited information available on the potential impacts of climate
change in some tourism regions, this qualitative assessment must also be considered with caution.
Until systematic regional level assessments are conducted a definitive statement on the net economic
or social impacts in the tourism sector will not be possible. Furthermore, the outcome most likely will
depend on the extent of climate change. The impact on the tourism sector may strongly parallel that of
the global economy, where a 1C temperature rise may result in a net benefit for the world economy,
but greater increases increasingly show net declines.
It is now recognised that regardless of the emissions reduction efforts, there is an inevitable need for
societies around the world to adapt to unavoidable changes in climate. It is essential to emphasize
that regardless of the nature and magnitude of climate change impacts, all tourism businesses and
destinations will need to adapt to climate change in order to minimize associated risks and capitalize
upon new opportunities, in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner.

Relative adaptive capacity of major tourism sub-sectors



Tour operators, transport

providers (railways,
airlines), travel agents

Adaptive Capacity

attraction operators,


Source: Scott, D. and Jones, B. (2006): Climate Change and Seasonality in Canadian Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Tourists have the greatest adaptive capacity (depending on three key resources: money, knowledge
and time) with relative freedom to avoid destinations impacted by climate change or shifting the timing
of travel to avoid unfavourable climate conditions (see figure below). Suppliers of tourism services and
tourism operators at specific destinations have less adaptive capacity. Large tour operators, who do
not own the infrastructure, are in a better position to adapt to changes at destinations because they
can respond to clients demands and provide information to influence clients travel choices.
Destination communities and tourism operators with large investment in immobile capital assets (e.g.,
hotel, resort complex, marina or casino) have the least adaptive capacity.
The dynamic nature of the tourism industry and its ability to cope with a range of recent major shocks,
including SARS, terrorism attacks in a number of nations, or the Asian tsunami, suggests a relatively
high adaptive capacity within the tourism industry overall. The capacity to adapt to climate change is
thought to vary substantially between sub-sectors, destinations, and individual businesses within the
tourism industry. UNWTO especially supports destinations in developing countries to cope with
increasing impacts of climate change, in pursuit with the Millennium Development Goals.
Climate Change adaptation can only be effective with the participation of all stakeholder groups. There
is a broad range of options available (see table).

Portfolio of climate adaptations utilized by tourism stakeholders

Type of

operators /

Tourism industry

Governments and

Financial sector


Enable access to
early warning
equipment (e.g.
radios) to tourism

Reservoirs and
desalination plants

Require advanced
building design or
material (fire
resistant) standards
for insurance

Slope contouring


collection and
water recycling
building design
and structure

conservation plans
Low season
Product and



diversification in

Develop websites
with practical
information on

Snow conditions
reports through the
Use of short-term
seasonal forecast
for the planning of
marketing activities
programmes on
climate change

Redirect clients
away from

management with
firms (e.g. via


political lobbying for
GHG emission
reductions and

Comply with
regulation (e.g.
building code)

Seek funding to
adaptation projects

Free structures for

water consumption
Weather forecasting
and early warning

management plans
(e.g. Coral
Response Plan)
Convention/ event

Provide information
material to

Adjust insurance
premium or not
renew insurance
Restrict lending to
high risk business

Business subsides
(e.g. insurance or
energy cost)

management plans
and set back
Building design
standards (e.g. for
hurricane force

Consideration of
climate change in
credit risk and
project finance


Site Location(e.g.
north facing
slopes, higher
elevations for ski

Assess awareness
of businesses and
tourist, as well as
knowledge gaps

programs (e.g.
predict bleaching or
avalanche risk,
beach water quality)

Extreme event risk


Public education
campaign (e.g.
Keep Winter Cool)

Water conservation


education for
employees and

potential and
existing customers

webcams of snow

GHG emission
offset programs

Extreme event
recovery marketing


GHG emission
offset programs

Campaigns on the
dangers of UV

Good practice inhouse

Water conservation

Source: UNWTO/UNEP (2006): Climate Change and Tourism Responding to Global Challenges

Adaptation Responses in Specific Types of Destinations

The following conclusions have been derived from presentations delivered by panellists representing
public and private sector, NGOs and research institutions, and the subsequent interventions and
debates involving the audience at the Second International Conference on Climate Change and
Tourism, held in Davos, Switzerland, 13 October 2007.


Beach tourism remains the dominating market segment, constituting a key part of the economy of most SIDS and
developing countries.
Coastal and island destinations are highly vulnerable to direct and indirect impacts of climate change (such as
storms and extreme climatic events, coastal erosion, physical damage to infrastructure, sea-level rise, flooding,
water shortages and water contamination), given that most infrastructure is located within short distance of the
shoreline. This high vulnerability often couples with a low adaptive capacity, especially in SIDS and coastal
destinations of developing countries.
The strong seasonality of beach tourism has to be taken into consideration, as it can be exacerbated by climate
change. In many beach destinations the high tourist season coincides with low water regimes in dry seasons,
aggravating water management and environmental issues.
Many coastal destinations and most SIDS depend on long-haul flights for their tourism-driven economies.
Mitigation policies should be developed in a way that do not jeopardise the tourism sector of these destinations.

Destinations specific recommended measures:

Soft coastal protection to prevent erosion (e.g., reforestation

of mangroves, reef protection);

integration of climate change factors Environmental Impact

Assessment for coastal infrastructure and establishments;

implementation of tourism development plans within the

framework of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)
and spatial planning;

enhancing resilience of coastal ecosystems (e.g. reef

conservation through dive tourism, waste management, water
conservation techniques; improved drainage and watershed

diversification of beach tourism (promotion of shoulder

seasons, cultural tourism, inclusion of inland areas and
attractions in programmes).


National Adaptation Strategies
Considering the high dependency of many SIDS on tourism and their
high vulnerability to climate change coupling with relatively low
adaptation capacity, UNWTO initiated a series of pilot adaptation
projects at island destinations. Funded by the Global Environmental
Facility, activities have been undertaken in Fiji and the Maldives, in
collaboration with UNDP and UNEP. The pilot projects are expected
to deliver replicable outputs, considering that SIDS and other coastal
destinations have similar challenges regarding climate change, such
as shoreline and beach erosion, extreme climatic events (cyclones,
storm surges, droughts), reduced water availability, degradation of
coastal and marine ecosystems, among others.
The projects address policy issues, such as improved inter-ministerial coordination, streamlined regulations
and environmental impact assessment processes, improvement of climate information for long term strategic
tourism planning, as well as seasonal and short term operations and activities. They intend to implement ontheground measures at selected demonstration areas, addressing erosion control, water conservation and
waste management, preservation of reef areas and coastal ecosystems, health issues, product diversification,
among others. The projects have important capacity building components, targeting tourism operations and
environmental managers, local communities, as well as building curricula in educational institutions.
Focus on integrated approaches: the projects deal with tourism facilities, operations and neighbouring local
communities, as well as community-based tourism activities in an integrated way, recognizing their strong
interconnections where they share the same fragile environmental resource base, and mutual interests where
tourism can generates benefits through sourcing labour and supply of products and services locally. The
projects form part of national strategies for both climate change adaptation and sustainable tourism
development, supporting a number of related sectors and policy areas, such as agriculture, disaster risk
management, health, water, education, among others. The projects successfully brought together key
ministries (such as tourism, environment, urban planning and infrastructure, fisheries, economy), tourism
private sector associations (tour operators, hotels, tourism board), as well as NGOs and academic institutions
in both countries.

Small island chains of Yasawa and

Mamanuca in Fiji with small-scale tourism
facilities are particularly vulnerable to climate
change impacts and extreme events

In the Maldives various resorts have designated environmental officers, operate

marine labs, and collaborate with marine biologists to run reef restoration
projects and other environmental actions.

Tourism leading the way in environmental management: tourism operations need to comply with strict
environmental regulations and procedures, often going beyond standards by implementing voluntary measures
and innovative techniques, driven by company policies and commitments to preserve the pristine environment
tourism strives on. In the Maldives, innovative measures implemented by resort islands include marine labs
and collaborations with research institutions, coral gardening and conservation projects, portable groins to
reduce erosion by adjusting to sediment movements, waste reduction and recycling becoming 0 plastic island
and community outreach programmes.
Further Information

Maldives project:

Fiji project:


Mountain regions are important destinations for global tourism. Snow cover and pristine mountain
landscapes, the principal attractions for tourism in these regions, are the most vulnerable features to climate
change. Besides the negative impacts, climate change can also bring opportunities in mountain areas. While
winter season might shorten, summer season might lengthen, providing opportunities for other types of
outdoor activities and tourism business that supply them (e.g., trekking, hiking, mountain biking, etc.).

Climate Adaptations in Tourism Event Programming at the Winterlude Festival (February)

Adapting to Warm Temperatures and Lack of Snow
Moved programming from ice-covered lakes to land

Used refrigerated trucks for the ice sculpture carving contest.
Lengthened the festival from ten days to a three-weekend

event to increase the probability of suitable weather.

Implemented snow-making to ensure adequate snow supply

for skiing and sledding.

Developed a Nordic ski track setter for low-snow conditions

and concentrated Nordic ski race trails shaded terrain that

required less snow.

Destination specific recommended measures:

Implement snow-making, and make it more energy


groom ski slopes to reduce snow depth requirements;

preserve glacier areas;

move ski areas to higher altitudes or to colder north


improve water use and protect Alpine watersheds;

install avalanche prevention infrastructure into place;

diversify the offer to all season tourism and alternatives of snow sports (e.g., spas, hiking, cycling).

Nature-based tourism relies on a high diversity of tourism resources (landscapes, flagship species,
ecosystems, outdoor activities relying on specific resources like water level in rivers for canoeing, etc.).
These resources are highly variable in space, and will be affected by climate change in various ways. It is
rather difficult to assess the magnitude of climate change impacts in nature-based destinations, given this
diversity of resources, compared for example to ski resorts, (relying principally on snow conditions), or
coastal resorts (relying mainly on beach and bathing water conditions). Although ecosystems can be highly
vulnerable to climate change impacts, probably there are good adaptation options in ecotourism, given the
wide range of activities that can be developed and conducted in natural areas. Therefore, there are good
possibilities to design effective adaptation strategies for ecotourism and nature-based destinations.


Adaptation to Coral Reef Bleaching Events at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Climate Change Impact: higher average and extreme sea surface temperatures, increase frequency and
severity of coral bleaching events.

Adaptation Techniques, Policies or Measures: Development of the Coral

Bleaching Response Plan by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
in order to: improve ability to predict bleaching risk, provide early warnings
of major coral bleaching events, measure the extent of bleaching, assess
the ecological impacts of bleaching, involve the community in monitoring
the health of the Reef, communicate and raise awareness about bleaching,
and evaluate the implications of bleaching events for tourism management
policy and strategies. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the
Australian Ministry of Tourism have also considered other technical
adaptations, including spraying cooler water from deeper areas onto ocean
surface at peak heat times to cool surface waters and protect the corals
from being damaged or using awnings or umbrella-like structures on buoys
to shade corals in high visitation tourism areas.

Organization(s) Implementing Tools, Techniques, Policies or Measures: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Authority, tour operators, Australian Ministry of Tourism.

Destination specific recommended measures:

Integrate climate factors into conservation and tourism

management plans of protected areas, especially in
biodiversity hotspots of LDCs and developing countries;

establish monitoring survey programmes to assess

ecosystem changes, their relation with tourism activities,
and take necessary protection measures;

opening up new micro destinations and attractions

within and adjacent to an already popular national park
or heritage site;

carry out re-design or redefinition of protected areas, for

example creation of migratory corridors; and adjust
tourism programmes accordingly;

improve visitors and congestion management to prevent

overuse of sites and physical impacts of visitation.



Please visit our departments website for further information:

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations
that serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism
know-how. Its Members include 154 countries, 7 territories as well as over 370 Affiliate
Members from the public and private sectors. UNWTOs mission is to promote and
develop tourism as a significant means of fostering international peace and
understanding, economic development and international trade.

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